"A Modern New Wave Fantasy": Supergroup DREAMCAR make their Philadelphia debut at the TLA - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Dreamcar | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

Is there anything trickier in music than the formation of a supergroup?  Usage of that term alone feels gratuitous.  Last year’s unveiling of the concept behind DREAMCAR, the creative union between AFI frontman Davey Havok and No Doubt members Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young, arrived in particularly tabloidian fashion – reports were quick to assume No Doubt had replaced their iconic frontwoman Gwen Stefani and – GASP! – Stefani herself went on television to share she wasn’t aware until she read about it on the interwebs.  But on the heels of the May 12 release of its self-titled debut, DREAMCAR is quickly proving itself a horse of a different color, and it’s far better than you would expect.

The quartet’s 16-date tour made its stop in Philadelphia this week upon a dreary Monday on an uncharacteristically somber South Street and admittedly, this curmudgeonly skeptical writer.  But the mood lifted from note one of “After I Confessed”, the set opener and first track off Dreamcar.  Davey Havok appeared before us in a blue oxford and pink necktie under a tan suit.  He looked like Errol Flynn stepping off the set of the music video for “Smooth Criminal” and into a modern new wave fantasy.

Dreamcar | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

The band’s sound is unapologetically influenced by the 80’s, so much so that it might be corny if it weren’t so damn infectious.  Perhaps it would be easier to dismiss the guitar riff of “The Assailant” for how closely it resembles The Cure if guitarist Tom Dumont didn’t execute that sound with such precision.  Maybe we could turn our nose up at the fact that Davey Havok almost morphs into a full-on Adam Ant impersonation with “On The Charts” if not for his electrifying stage presence.

It felt as if every inch of the stage existed solely for Havok to slide across, twirl around or ricochet from.  In DREAMCAR, Havok has certainly traded in the hardcore intensity he is known for from his 20-plus years as lead singer of AFI for a more dramatic flair that, matched with his soaring, crystal clear and flawless voice, would have been right at home on Broadway.  I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him.

Dreamcar | photo by Wendy McCardle for WXPN

While the set was short, it was certainly not lacking in style nor substance as the band tore through the album in its entirety, bringing its 39 minute-long run time closer to an hour with the inclusion of covers of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”  It’s always a treat to experience on an intimate scale a band that normally you could only enjoy from afar.  DREAMCAR’s close inspection at the TLA revealed their greatest success – at their core, they are simply four friends who love music and love playing it together.  Being able to take part in that such a small scale brings a palpable energy that transcends critical analysis.  It is, as Davey Havok described the Philly crowd, “a true joy”.

After I Confessed
The Assailant
Born To Lie
Slip on the Moon
The Preferred
Moonage Daydream (Bowie cover)
On The Charts
Do Nothing
Ever Lonely
Don’t Let Me Love
All The Dead Girls
No More Mr. Nice Guy (Alice Cooper cover)
Show Me Mercy
Kill For Candy

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